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Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus

Cylindropuntia (including austrocylindropuntia) cacti are characterised by their cylindrical limbs and include commonly known species such as devil's rope, hudson pear and pencil cactus. All cylindropuntia species are declared in South Australia.

What are cylindropuntia cacti?

Cylindropuntia cacti are perennial succulents characterised by cylindrical limbs and prickly spines. Most cylindropuntia species produce flowers, ranging from pink to purple, red, magenta, greenish yellow and yellowish brown in colour, depending on the particular species.

All species produce fleshy fruit which attach to the pads and range in colour from green to yellow. The fruit of jumping cholla (Cylindropuntia fulgida) form chains.

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus
(Cylindropuntia imbricata) is commonly known as devil's rope, devil's rope pear, pear rope and tiger pear

Cylindropuntia infestations germinate easily as they can grow from both seeds and plant parts. Seeds and dislodged plant parts can travel significant distances via wind, through waterways and livestock before establishing new incursions. Fruit and seeds are also spread by being ingested by birds and animals before being excreted.

Where are cylindropuntia cacti found?

In Australia, cylindropuntia species are found in sub-humid, semi-arid, and arid areas in sub-tropical, tropical, warm, and cool temperate regions. All cylindropuntia species are drought resistant and can grow in a variety of soil types.

Devil’s rope is the most common species with scattered patches in the mid Murray and Riverland. White-spined hudson pear has been recorded in the Mid-Murray while brown-spined Hudson pear has been spotted in the Riverland. Other species can be found near former garden sites anywhere in South Australia north and west of the Murray River. Cylindropuntia can be found in grasslands, bushlands, forests, native vegetation, and on rocky slopes, roadsides, agricultural land, railways, and waterways.

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus
Pencil cactus (Cylindropuntia leptocaulis)

Both species of austrocylindropuntia (cane cactus and Eve’s pin cactus) are found in the Riverland, and it is suspected that the original incursion escaped from old garden plantings. Both species are drought resistant and grow in semi-arid regions.

Eve’s pin cactus prefers free-draining soil with either neutral to alkaline pH and is tolerant of infertile, saline, and shallow soils. Austrocylindropuntia can be found in grasslands, shrublands, and open woodlands and alongside roadsides and waterways.

What are the impacts of cylindropuntia?

Species of cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia invade rangelands, pastoral land, and open native vegetation, displacing and competing with desirable vegetation. Dense infestations obstruct movement by stock, humans, and vehicles and the fruits of some species can harbour fruit fly. The spines can injure people, native animals, livestock, working dogs, and pets and also damage tyres on vehicles and penetrate footwear. The presence of spines in wool and hides reduces their value and causes issues with shearing.

Spines in some cylindropuntia species are encased in a detachable sheath which may remain embedded in a wound even after the body of the spine is removed. Spines have been known to kill wildlife, including koalas.

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus
Klein’s cholla (Cylindropuntia kleiniae)

What is the declared status of cylindropuntia and austrocylindroptunia species?

All species of cylindropuntia are declared in South Australia and subject to the following restrictions:

  • Land managers must take reasonable steps to kill plants and prevent their spread,
  • Plants must not be sold or traded in any way, including as a contaminant of anything,
  • Plants must not be transported on a public road, including as a contaminant of anything, and
  • Plants must not be transported into the region.

Both species of austrocylindropuntia are declared and are subject to the following restrictions:

  • Plants must not be sold or traded in any way, including as a contaminant of anything.

How can cylindropuntiabe controlled?

Managing infestation of cacti can be hard because it spreads so easily from small plant parts. Successful weed control relies on follow-up after the initial efforts by looking for and killing regrowth or new plants. Using a combination of control methods is usually more successful. Land managers should ensure that they wear protective clothing, including gloves, boots, thick clothing, and eyewear to stop injuries from spines.

Visit the PIRSA website to find out chemical control options and dosing rates specific to cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia.

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus
Snake cactus (Cylindropuntia spinosior)

Land managers should also ensure that they take relevant preventative measures. Avoid growing cylindropuntia in gardens or pots and don't take cuttings of unknown cactus plants to grow or share with others.

Check clothing, vehicles, and equipment for plant parts before leaving an area that has cacti. Use fences to keep livestock (and wildlife if possible) out of known cacti incursions.

What to do if you suspect a cylindropuntia outbreak

Notify the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board if assistance is required. If the plants are actively growing on your land, remove and destroy the plant or treat with a relevant herbicide until the plants are killed.

Cylindropuntia and austrocylindropuntia cactus

This project is supported by the Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board with funding through the landscape levies.